- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The operators of the Prince George’s Hospital Center and Laurel Regional Hospital are again asking for millions in state and county money, though new financial figures show the troubled company recently turned a profit of more than $2 million.

Dimensions Health System executives say the nonprofit company still needs “significant and continued” financial support from taxpayers to keep the recovery on track.

Last year, Maryland and Prince George’s County pledged $45 million to bail out the health system. And state officials have earmarked an additional $6.4 million for Prince George’s Hospital Center in the fiscal 2006 budget, county officials said this week.

Albert Mansfield, the company’s interim chief financial officer, said a nearly $2.1 million profit in February is not an indicator of future performance.

“To look to February’s results as an indication that the [recovery] is complete … would be premature,” he said.

About $5 million of the new state money will go toward capital improvements, said Prince George’s County spokesman John E. Erzen. Still, the possibility of the company’s long-term success remains unclear.

Last month, a state-and-county oversight panel said Dimensions should be fired from running the facilities because of lax financial control and poor management. The facilities are owned by the county, but are run by Dimensions through a lease deal.

Prince George’s officials are still studying the recommendations while awaiting an opinion from legal experts over the status of outstanding bonds issued by Dimensions, said county spokesman Jim Keary.

The panel began probing Dimensions’ finances last year after the state-and-county bailout. Since 1999, Dimensions has lost nearly $48 million, according to tax returns and a county study conducted last year.

Two of the panel’s most high-profile members — former Maryland Secretary of Health and Human Hygiene Nelson J. Sabatini and Dr. Morton Rapoport, former chief executive of the University of Maryland School of Medicine — will continue working with the county on issues related to Dimensions, Mr. Erzen said.

The Dimensions board of directors has recently defended itself against the panel’s findings, saying the health system has been underfunded over the years.

Mr. Mansfield said yesterday the health system shows some signs of improved performance, such as a reduction in overtime expenditures. However, the health system has only about two weeks’ worth of cash on hand, he said.

There has also been a sudden accounting change in how much money Dimensions expects to collect on patient bills, which has caused the company to incur several millions of dollars in additional losses, according to monthly financial reports.

In December, the health system projected it would collect all but $12.9 million of $72.6 million in outstanding patient bills. However, the projection for uncollected bills increased in January to $16.7 million, then $17.5 million in February.

Mr. Mansfield said there have been no changes in the staffing levels of Dimensions’ collections department and that projections must be “re-evaluated and tested from time to time.”

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